My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Archive for November, 2014

Around home, as the snow began

Well, I’m almost caught up posting the photos that I have saved, this post should get me back to being current again. The reasons for that are the new job, and the weather, or I’d still be falling behind.

The new job is going well enough, the hours are long, so I don’t get out to shoot photos most days since I started, but the pay is good, and the weather nasty.

We set a record for the most snowfall ever in the month of November, with over a week left to go in the month. Along with the snow came record cold, but at least we didn’t get hammered as hard as Buffalo, New York.

On Saturday, the snow changed over to rain, and it has been raining most of the time up until now, which is Monday morning. In a month of records, we set the daily rainfall total for the date yesterday. Most of the snow is gone, for the time being, but it is a wet, muddy mess outside. By this afternoon, the rain is forecast to change back to snow again, so we’ll be adding to our record for the month as far as snowfall.

After I went for my long walk in the rain yesterday, I went to the local Apple store to look at computers. I know that an iMac is more expensive than a Windows machine, but I’m almost positive that I’ll be purchasing an iMac, if for no other reason than to get away from Microsoft. But, that won’t be until the end of January, or more likely, the first part of February, it will depend on how many hours I work.

I really liked the iMac that I played with at the store, and I also like that way that you can use an iPhone and an iPad seamlessly with an iMac. Of course the phone and tablet are way down the road, but it pays to think ahead. I had a smart phone for a while, and I miss having one.

I could go for a Macbook, but I’ll get more bang for my buck with a desktop iMac for right now. If I ever see the need for a notebook, a tablet will fill the bill nicely, while the desktop will be better for processing photos, with its larger display, larger hard drive, more RAM, and higher processor speed.

Once I have a current computer, rather than my ten-year old Gateway, I’ll shoot more photos in Raw, rather than JPEG. I also hate to admit this, but I’m going over to the “dark side”, and I’ll begin tweaking my images in Lightroom as well as Photomatix.

That doesn’t mean that I’ll go crazy in my editing, creating images that look nothing like what nature presented to me. However, I have come to the conclusion that no matter how well I learn to use my camera gear, the limitations of what a camera’s sensor can record require some editing to bring the images that the sensor produces up to the level of what I can see with my eyes as I shoot the images.

In fact, I doubt if I will do much, if any, editing to most of my bird and wildlife images, other than possibly noise reduction in images such as these.

Dark-eyed junco

Dark-eyed junco

Dark-eyed junco

Dark-eyed junco

Not to brag, but I think that I do well enough on birds and wildlife often enough that I don’t need to edit poor photos to come up with enough to fill my blog regularly.

I’m not sure that editing could save a photo like this anyway.

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

That’s what I get for trying to shoot photos in the rain and gloom. However, I was quite proud of myself in one way, as I approached the spot where I had seen the mallards land, I got everything set on both my camera and the 300 mm lens in preparation for the mallards to take flight. But, despite setting the lens to the action mode for the IS, and setting the focus limiter for quicker auto-focus, when a mallard comes straight at me at speed, then turns abruptly as I’m pressing the shutter release….

Most of a male mallard in flight

Most of a male mallard in flight

…there are no camera settings that would have helped, and no amount of editing that would make that a good photo. 😉 I can’t even stitch the next photo in the series on to that one…

Male mallard's head

Male mallard’s head

…because I was moving the camera too quickly trying to catch up to the mallard.

Better light may have helped, not to make excuses again, but here’s a blurb from the local meteorologist whose blog I follow about our recent weather.

“Over the last three weeks, G.R. has had just 12.9% of possible sunshine.  Today (Tue.) is the 21st consecutive day with at least at trace of rain or snow and 17 of those days have had measurable rain or snow. Over the last 5 days, Grand Rapids has averaged 45 SECONDS of sunshine per day”

In other words, it’s been dark, wet, and gloomy all this month so far, and it doesn’t look as though it’s going to improve much any time soon.

Of the photos that I have saved for this post, three were shot in good light, and here they are.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Most of the time, it has been cloudy, so here’s the same mushroom after the snow began.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

On the few days when I have been able to make it outside for a walk, the birds have been hunkered down against the cold and snow most of the time, but I did catch a few.

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

American goldfinch

However, this weather has confirmed what I suppose that I already knew, that I have become too reliant on birds, or maybe a better way to put it is obsessed with birds.

When I began my blog, I shot far fewer birds, and more of the other things that nature has to offer. As I shot more species of birds, including some rare ones, my blog has become more of a bird blog than an all around nature blog. With winter here, birds are going to be few and far between, so I have been going back to shooting other things in nature.

There are always squirrels to photograph.

Relaxed fox squirrel

Relaxed fox squirrel

Guilty fox squirrel

Guilty fox squirrel

Guilty fox squirrel

Guilty fox squirrel

Hungry fox squirrel

Hungry fox squirrel

They do make good subjects, because each one seems to have its own personality, but I really don’t want my blog to become the fox squirrel of the day blog.

There are fungi to shoot.

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

But in low light, they are not easy to photograph. Besides, I can’t identify any of them, and probably never will be able to, despite the best efforts of Allen (New Hampshire Garden Solutions) to teach me about such things.

Speaking of low light, and this goes to editing images and noise as well, buying good lenses really pays dividends! I saw some mosses growing on a fence, and wanted to get a photo of them. But, in the very low light that day, even at ISO 3200, which is very high for my 60D body, I couldn’t get the photo that I wanted to shoot with the Tokina macro lens stopped down for more depth of field, there simply wasn’t enough light.

I have sung the praises of that lens before, but this next image surprised me, shot at f/2.8 and ISO 3200.

Mosses on a fence

Mosses on a fence

I think that the image above is the first one that I have ever shot with the aperture of the Tokina lens wide open. Most lenses need to be stopped down a few stops before they render super sharp images, apparently, the Tokina is super sharp with the aperture wide open. Not only that, but just as with my two Canon L series lenses, great glass seems to produce less noise at higher ISO settings.

I wish that I had been able to get more depth of field, but we’ll say that I shot it that way on purpose, since that seems to be the trend these days as far as style. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that the current obsession with extremely short depths of field and the quality of the bokeh in an image is a bit amusing, especially since the word bokeh didn’t exist until recently.

One day, I was coming up short of subjects to photograph, so I tried turning a molehill into a mountain.

Molehill mountain

Molehill mountain

Obviously, that didn’t work as I planned. 😉 But, it’s fun playing with my lenses and trying to see how the world looks at different angles and perspectives. To go with that thought, I’m going to bore you with a few images of the same fungi that I shot over several days, trying both the 70-200 mm and the Tokina macro lens, and different aperture settings.

I’ll start with a wide view.

Turkey tails?

Turkey tails?

Then, I moved in and out, shooting various bits of the scene.

Turkey tails?

Turkey tails?

Turkey tails? 70-200 mm

Turkey tails? 70-200 mm

Turkey tails? Tokina 100 mm

Turkey tails? Tokina 100 mm

Nearby, I found this, which I think is an egg case from an insect.

Insect egg case?

Insect egg case?

I think that I see the larval stage of an insect there, and it looks like the birds have been digging into the case to pluck a few of the larva out, but I’m guessing.

I’ve been using the Tokina macro lens more than ever lately, here’s a few more from it.

Dried Pine resin teeth

Dried Pine resin teeth

Dried Pine resin teeth

Dried Pine resin teeth

???

???

Lichens

Lichens

Lichens

Lichens

Lichens

Lichens

I’ve also been carrying the 70-200 mm lens most days, since it has been so gloomy.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

And, I’ve been trying more artistic shots as well.

Frozen in time

Frozen in time

Light snow

Light snow

Standing out from the crowd

Standing out from the crowd

Rose hips in the rain

Rose hips in the rain

Sumac with its "catch"

Sumac with its “catch”

Blushes of color

Blushes of color

Anyway, I’ve also played with Photomatix to produce a few more HDR images, here’s the scene that I’ve been shooting repeatedly as I learn to use the controls of Photomatix.

The last color, not HDR

The last color, not HDR

I like the color, but the sky is blown out. So, here’s one attempt at a HDR.

The last color, HDR 1

The last color, HDR 1

I think that I got a little carried away with that one, but not as much as it looks. Here’s another try.

The last color, HDR 2, in the snow

The last color, HDR 2, in the snow

One of these days, I’ll get the hang of using the Photomatix software.

To wrap this one up, a big surprise!

Garter snake in the snow

Garter snake in the snow

The snake was moving so slowly due to the cold, that I was able to shoot several photos as it tried to escape.

Garter snake in the snow

Garter snake in the snow

Now that I’m caught up with my photos, I’ll begin posting one species of bird to the My Photo Life List project again over the winter.

As cold as I think that this winter will be, I doubt if I’ll be chasing birds very often, as they will have all that they can do to survive. So I guess that you’ll have to look forward to subjects other than birds for the next few months. Of course I have no idea what those subjects will be, or if my photos will be any good or not, but, it will be fun trying new things for a while.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Muskegon Nov. 9th, 2014, shooting in the rain

This post is about the trip that I made to Muskegon on November 9th, 2014, and it will be a relatively short post compared to some of the others that I have done recently. It was cold, windy, and with frequent rain showers that day, hardly good weather for photography.

However, bad weather for photography often presents the most opportunities to shoot photos, a bit of a quandary for some one like me.

Since I began my blog, I have often shot the most interesting photos in really crappy weather, and I’ve often written that bad weather is the best time to observe wildlife in action. Critters have no choice but to continue to live as they always do during spells of bad weather, and with fewer people outside, I can get closer to the action than on nice sunny days when there are more people around.

So, to begin with, when I arrived at the grassy cells of the Muskegon wastewater facility, I stopped at the far edge along a drainage ditch to scope the area out to see if anything was around so that I wouldn’t spook it. As I was looking the area over, a great blue heron came gliding towards me, and landed close enough for me to shoot this photo, which hasn’t been cropped at all.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Apparently, the heron didn’t like the sound of my camera, for it quickly wound up for take off….

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…but it didn’t go far.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

You can see the raindrops hitting the water in the creek, to give you some idea of the conditions that I was shooting under. And, given those conditions, I’m happy with the resulting photos, which were shot with my Canon 60 D and the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens).

How bad was the weather? This video that I shot later in the day will give you a better idea of what the weather was like.

Not a nice day at all, or a good day for photography! And, my talk about the weather isn’t just an excuse for the poor quality of most of the images that will be in this post, it also brings up why I’m drooling over one of the new Canon 7D Mark II cameras.

The 7D is a highly specialized tool, designed for sports and action photography in low light situations. It has the best weather sealing of any camera on the market today, and it has several other features that would have been useful on a day like this one. The super fast auto-focusing system, that works much better than my camera in low light situations would have been nice, as would its capabilities at high ISO settings.

But, the 7D is too much camera for most people, there’s no reason to spend what a 7D costs unless you’re as crazy as I am to be out on a blustery, rainy day, trying to shoot flying birds, such as an eagle coming at me carrying a dead mallard in its talons, and landing on a power pole.

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

The eagle looked at me…

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

…then at a flock of gulls approaching…

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

…and decided that it could find a better place to finish lunch than being mobbed by gulls hoping to steal the mallard from the eagle, or with a photographer shooting pictures of it…

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

…but it paused and looked at me as if to ask “Hey Mr. Photographer, are you getting this?”…

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

…and with that, the eagle was gone.

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

Bald eagle with its kill

I’m under no illusions that a 7D would have produced great photos of the eagle, but there would have been a significant improvement in the image quality if I had been using it, rather than my 60D, which doesn’t handle high ISO settings as well as the 7D does.

I could be like most people, and stay home in bad weather, but I see the most interesting things when it’s nasty outside.

Later on, I saw a peregrine falcon go zooming past me, resulting in this terrible photo.

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

I watched as the falcon made repeated dives through a flock of gulls off in the distance, but none of the dives resulted in a kill. Then, I saw the falcon and a gull coming at me at a high rate of speed, too fast for me to get a photo. It was as they passed me that I saw that the falcon must have ticked off a gull, for the gull was chasing the falcon, rather than the other way around.

Gull chasing a peregrine falcon

Gull chasing a peregrine falcon

With a stiff tailwind, the gull did a respectable job of staying close to the falcon for quite a way, but the falcon’s speed eventually allowed it to pull away from the gull.

Gull chasing a peregrine falcon

Gull chasing a peregrine falcon

I see something as interesting as that, and of course it had to be on a rotten day to capture it. 😉 However, that seems to be about normal for me, which is why a Canon 7D would be a wise choice as my camera.

That doesn’t hold true for most other photographers though, like I said earlier, the 7D is a specialized tool for sports and wildlife photographers. Some one shooting landscapes or portraits would be much better off with a different camera than the one that is best for the subjects that I shoot.

Nikon and Sony are way ahead of Canon as far as sensors, even the sensor in the brand new 7D Mark II comes up short against the cameras produced by the other two brands. That’s what makes choosing the right camera for yourself so tricky, it’s about more than the absolute image quality that can be recorded by the sensor. You have to be able to get the shot before the sensor records it, and that’s where Canon seems to have made most of the improvements in the 7D Mark II, with one of the best auto-focusing systems on the market today.

I went with Canon for more than just the camera bodies. In researching lenses, it was Canon’s lens selection that made me switch from Nikon to Canon, as they seemed to have the best selection of lenses that fit my needs. A camera body is worthless without a lens, and vice versa.

But, enough of that other than to say that just because I’m drooling over a 7D Mark II doesn’t mean that it is the best camera for you, it probably isn’t.

Back to the photos that I wished I had a 7D for, a male ring-necked duck in the rain.

Male ring-necked duck

Male ring-necked duck

The rain let up now and then, and during one of those times, I shot this series of a rough legged hawk.

Rough legged hawk in flight

Rough legged hawk in flight

Rough legged hawk in flight

Rough legged hawk in flight

Rough legged hawk

Rough legged hawk

Rough legged hawk in flight

Rough legged hawk in flight

I included all of those because they show the way that the rough legged hawks hunt, which is completely different from the red-tailed hawks. The rough legged hawks will hover over a spot, touch down, look around, then repeat that over and over.

The red-tailed hawks either soar overhead until they spot prey, or perch somewhere to watch for prey, like this red-tailed hawk.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

There were plenty of waterfowl around, but in the poor light that day, I didn’t shoot very many photos, however, since green-winged teal are a new species for me, here’s a few of them that I saved.

Green-winged teal

Green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

During one of the brighter moments, I saw a flock of tundra swans flying over.

Tundra swans in flight

Tundra swans in flight

Tundra swans in flight

Tundra swans in flight

It’s good to see so many of them, when they were close to extinction not that long ago.

Finally, three photos of a horned grebe, the first, just after it surfaced.

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

Then, it spotted me.

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

Then, dove out of sight.

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

Okay, I lied, one more image to show how bad the weather was, a male bufflehead duck battling the waves.

Male bufflehead duck

Male bufflehead duck

You know it’s a windy day when the waves on the small man-made lakes are over a foot in height!

I shot one other video that day, it’s horrible to say the best about it. I think that I’ll post it anyway, for several reasons. It will give you an even better idea how bad the weather was. You can tell that the wind was buffeting me, and that I was not able to stand still in the wind. As it starts, it shows a large number of gulls soaring in the wind, but then, a flock of northern shovelers fly between myself and the gulls. At about the eight second point of the video, you can see that the ducks and gulls seem to take evasive action, and a bird swoop through the flock of ducks from a completely different direction than what the gulls and ducks are moving. It comes in the upper right hand corner of the frame, then exits out of the frame very quickly.

It may have been the falcon again, but I’m not sure, but something caused the flock of ducks to split apart as they took evasive action.

And, that leads me to the last thing that I have to say in this post. Once I purchase a 7D next spring, I’ll have three camera bodies, the 7D and two 60D bodies. I could sell one of the 60D bodies, but I doubt that I will. The 7D will be my wildlife body, one 60D I’ll use for landscapes and macros so that I don’t have to change settings back and forth all the time. Also, the 60D has the vari-angle display, that I love for landscapes and macros, the 7D doesn’t have that feature.

I think that I’ll keep the second 60D body set-up for videos, to shoot more of them in the future. As you can see, I need lots of practice at shooting videos. 😉 It would help if things didn’t happen to distract me from my intended subjects as in the last video. I go to shoot gulls, a flock of ducks fly past, causing me to focus on them, rather than the gulls. Then, something causes the flock of ducks to split up and change directions, as all the time, I’m fighting the wind and trying to capture the scene and keep the fast moving ducks in the frame.

That this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Around home, before the snow began

Where do I begin?

My new job is going well enough, although being the newbie, I’m getting stuck working odd hours and doing runs that the company’s senior drivers don’t want to do. Well, that comes with being a newbie, it will get better the longer I work there. So far, I do really like working there as far as the way the company is run, so I think that I will be there until I retire. I’ll spare you the details, but this company doesn’t fool around, they aren’t afraid of pulling a truck out of a shipper’s facility if the shipper doesn’t start loading a truck in a timely way. Neither do they ask a driver to attempt to speed up a dawdling shipper, they have a person on staff to do that.

Anyway, I’m sipping my “morning” coffee at 4 PM today, I start at 10 PM tonight. I can’t say that I like these hours, but I do know that it will get better as I work there longer, and get a chance to bid on a dedicated run, so I’ll have a more reasonable work schedule.

My work schedule has prevented me from doing a daily walk on most days so far, not that the weather has been conducive for photography. We’re in the middle of a lake effect snowstorm that began yesterday, and continues today. At last check, the terminal where I start from had gotten 15 inches of snow so far. I live 12 mile east of the terminal, and we’ve had a little over a foot of snow, and it’s still coming down. The snow is forecast to let up overnight, then begin all over again tomorrow. Yuck!

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, we’re setting records for snow and cold for the month of November.

I must be getting old, the idea of trudging through a foot of snow on gloomy days when we never see the sun, and it feels like mid-January rather than November, doesn’t appeal to me as much as it used to.

So, with nasty weather, and working long hours, I don’t know how much photography I’ll be doing this winter. That’s okay, it’s part of my plan. I haven’t received my first paycheck from my new employer, but I estimate that it will be close to double what I averaged at my last job, and that’s always a good thing. So far this week, I’m on pace for the same size paycheck again.

With some real money coming in again, I’ll pay off the few bills that I have quickly, buy a new computer, and still be able to purchase a new Canon 7D camera next spring.

It’s not that I’m unhappy with the two 60 D bodies that I have now, not at all, but the new 7D has even better noise reduction, and of course, a much better auto-focusing system. I wonder if the improved auto-focusing will “cure” the problems that I have using my two Canon L series lenses.

Both the 70-200 mm and 300 mm prime L series lenses that I own work much better on one of my 60 D bodies than they do on the other one. I’ve written about that before, so I won’t repeat myself too much here.

And, all of the lenses that I have purchased came with strengths and weaknesses, it’s been both fun and a little frustrating at times learning what those strengths and weaknesses are, and learning when to use each lens to play to its strengths.

A few examples, the Sigma 150-500 mm lens is at its best at mid-range distances. The 300 mm prime lens is great both close up and at longer distances, but a bit soft at mid-ranges. The 70-200 mm lens doesn’t do well close up, but seems to get sharper and sharper the farther that I am from something. I have to wonder if those things will still hold true when I use those lenses on a better camera body.

Okay, speaking of the 70-200 mm lens, it has been my forgotten lens, that I seldom used this summer. That was a mistake!

Fall mallrds

Fall mallards

That photo was one in a series of reflection shots that I took, here’s two more.

Fall reflections

Fall reflections

Fall mallards 2

Fall mallards 2

In a way, I wish that the mallards hadn’t been there. I was angling for a shot of the branch in the water “sprouting” from the reflections of the trees, but the mallards wouldn’t leave, so I just had to include them. 😉

Not to brag (too much) but all my lenses are capable of delivering super images under the right conditions, my problem is that I shoot photos no matter what the conditions are outside. 😉

Yellow

Yellow

Seeing a grasshopper on a dandelion so late in the year led to this, shot with the Tokina macro lens.

Grasshopper and dandelion

Grasshopper and dandelion

I decided to pull back, and capture more of the scene.

Grasshopper and dandelion

Grasshopper and dandelion

It was then that I noticed the blades of grass in the foreground which are distracting from the subjects. But, when I tried to remove the grass, the grasshopper spooked, so I was left with this.

Dandelion

Dandelion

The truth is, I don’t remember which lens I used for this next one.

Fall still life

Fall still life

But, that’s sort of the point that I was trying to make, that all my lenses are quite capable of producing great images as far the technical side of photography, now, it is up to me to learn the artistic side better.

I suppose that I could stop trying to shoot great photos on days when the weather and/or lighting isn’t good for photos. However, that’s just not my style, and I would miss recording some of the things that I see in nature. For example, on one misty morning, I found a flock of crows that for some reason, held still for a few photos, one of which I will post.

American crow

American crow

The reason that the crows were willing to tolerate my being so close is because they were busy mobbing a Cooper’s hawk.

Cooper's hawk in flight

Cooper’s hawk in flight

Here’s another example. I’ve posted photos of both robins and cedar waxwings eating berries before, even catching shots of the birds swallowing the berries whole. Well, one day I found a flock of robins feeding on berries….

American robins

American robins

…so even though the weather was less than ideal, and I was too far away from the robins, I thought that I wold try again…

American robins

American robins

…and again…

American robins eating berries

American robins eating berries

…got one of the berry going down, or did I?

American robins eating berries

American robins eating berries

Did that robin spit the berry skin out? I’ll have to try to see if I can catch that!

American robin chewing a berry

American robin chewing a berry

American robin chewing a berry

American robin chewing a berry

American robin spitting out a berry skin

American robin spitting out a berry skin

Sure enough, with this species of berry, the robins didn’t swallow them whole, but extracted the insides of the berries and spit out the skins.

That brings up a couple of points, one, if I’m good at anything related to photography, it is catching wildlife, particularly birds, in action. I seem to be able to capture shots that I seldom see anywhere else. That’s because most wildlife photographers shoot from blinds, whereas I track down the wildlife doing things that they naturally do. But, that also means that I’m often shooting in bad light, and/or bad weather.

Another point is that I would love to be able to carry all my lenses all the time. The robins were shot with the 70-200 mm lens, and were really out of range for that lens, I would have loved to have had the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) with me for those photos. Then, I could have zoomed in closer for even better images of the way that the robins were eating the berries. However, I never know what I’ll see on any given day, and carrying twenty pounds of camera gear three miles every day doesn’t sound like fun. I guess that I’m a wimp on that point.

Here’s another of those times that I wished that I had been carrying one of my longer lenses, these were also shot with the 70-200 mm lens.

Whitetail doe

Whitetail doe

I thought that I would end up deleting that photo, but as I was watching her, I spotted a buck nearby.

8 point whitetail buck

8 point whitetail buck

8 point whitetail buck

8 point whitetail buck

Here’s the two of them together, although they are hard to see, their coloration blends in so well with the colors of the vegetation.

8 point whitetail buck and doe

8 point whitetail buck and doe

The buck was watching the doe, I was hoping to shoot some deer porn, but no such luck.

8 point whitetail buck

8 point whitetail buck

Once again, I had the wrong lenses with me.

Since the weather cooled off from summer, and before the snow began, I was carrying both camera bodies and four lenses with me. One longer lens, the two wide-angle lenses I own, and the Tokina macro lens. Here’s a photo that I shot as a throw away using the 10-18 mm lens, but I kind of like it, so I’ll go ahead and post it.

Fall woods

Fall woods

Oh, that reminds me, in a past post, I had a HDR image that I shot at the same time as the mallards that I started this post with, and I’ll post it again to refresh people’s memories.

Fall Mallards in HDR

Fall Mallards in HDR

On Sundays, I often listen to Leo Laporte, who does the Tech Guy radio show. One of his recurring guests is Chris Marquardt, an expert on digital photography who passes on tips, and also posts “assignments” or challenges for listeners to try their hand at. I posted the last photo for the current assignment, Fall, and it is holding its own as far as views and being picked as a favorite against some pretty stiff competition. I’m quite proud of that photo, so even if it isn’t picked as one of the top three that gets discussed next week, I think that I did well. Now, I need to do that more often!

Anyway, back to my other photos. I spent a day at Roselle Park, intending to do some birding, but the birds didn’t cooperate. I shot two photos of birds, a hawk and a heron, neither of them worth posting here. I did shoot a few landscapes though.

Roselle Park 1

Roselle Park 1

Roselle Park 2

Roselle Park 2

Roselle Park 3

Roselle Park 3

Roselle Park 4

Roselle Park 4

Down the trail

Down the trail

Teasel and goldenrod

Teasel and goldenrod

I used the Beast for all of those, and a shorter lens would have been better, maybe. Those were shot back when we saw some sunshine, this past week, we’ve had less than 4% sun, and just over 10% for the past two weeks.

News flash, I’m leaving at midnight tonight for Iowa, an overnight run for work. They’ll put me up in a motel over Thursday, and I’ll get back on Friday. I’ll get to leave the snow behind for a few hours, and even get to see the sun again!

However, neither my body or brain are used to switching work times like that, I’ve been on a set work schedule for five years. So, please don’t be surprised if some of the comments that I’ve left to your blogs don’t make a lot of sense. Also, don’t be surprised or disappointed if I don’t respond to comments that you leave to this post right away. I may not get to them until Saturday, possibly Sunday, it depends on my work schedule for the rest of the week.

As I said at the beginning of this, being the newbie, I’m going to be used to fill the holes in their scheduling between the dedicated runs that the more senior drivers have.

It is mentally and physically draining to work the long hours on different schedules that I’m doing right now, but I’ll get used to it again, and the money will be worth it. This winter is shaping up to be just as harsh as last winter, so I may as well work as many hours as I can, while I can.

Okay, back to the photos. Here’s one saved from some time ago, to remember when it was warm and sunny outside.

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

And, the few that I have left from Roselle Park.

Artsy caterpillar

Artsy caterpillar

Artsy seeds in the wind

Artsy seeds in the wind

Woolly bear caterpillar

Woolly bear caterpillar

I’m going to post a small version of the next one, a dust storm in the parking lot. The dust doesn’t show up well the larger that the image is for some reason.

Dust storm

Dust storm

I used the Beast for this next one, only because the log was out in the river, and I couldn’t get close enough with any other lens.

???

???

It was a very slow day at Roselle Park, I was quite disappointed that I didn’t catch any migrating birds, but that happens sometimes.

To finish this post off, I’ll go back to photos shot from my daily walks. I haven’t put any squirrel photos in this one yet, so here’s two for the squirrel fans.

Fox squirrel eating lunch

Fox squirrel eating lunch

IMG_3456

I saw pine sap that had flowed from a tree, and tried to get artsy with it using the Tokina lens, but I didn’t like the artsy version, here’s the one that I shot with the 300 mm prime lens.

Pine sap

Pine sap

Do you see the dark spot in the sap that looks like it is about to drip? Here’s a closer view, shot with the Tokina.

Future fossil

Future fossil

I moved in as close as I could hand holding the Tokina, and I also cropped this one slightly.

Future fossil

Future fossil

By the way, the reason that I didn’t like the artsy shot of the sap taken with the Tokina lens was that it didn’t fit well with the more “scientific” type of images of the ant trapped in the pine sap. I should have saved it and slipped it into another post later on. I also meant to go back and do better as far as the ant, but that’s about the time that the weather went downhill.

It will still be there if there’s ever a good day for photography again. Call it morbid curiosity, but the ant trapped in the pine sap now may very well end up as an insect trapped in amber thousands of years from now. I find it interesting that what I see now may be discovered as a fossil by a future generation.

Okay then, that’s all the photos for this post. I still have photos from one more trip to the Muskegon area to use up, plus one more post from around home, then, I’ll be all caught up again. The images from Muskegon were shot on a crappy day, rain, snow, and wind made photography difficult. But, as it always seems to go, I caught a few interesting things, such as an eagle carrying a mallard that it had killed around, and a gull chasing a peregrine falcon. Low light and miserable weather meant that I had to shoot at very high ISO settings, and my 60 D camera loses quite a bit of resolution at the settings required that day.

That’s one of the reasons that I’m saving for the new 7D Mark II, it has superior noise reduction at high ISO settings, and much better resolution as a result. A better auto-focusing system would have helped as well.

I’ve begun looking at new computers, I’m considering switching from a Windows machine to a Mac when I make the purchase, so if any of you have any pointers for me, I’d appreciate hearing them.

Well, that’s about all I have to say for this one. I’ve prattled on more than long enough.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Muskegon Nov. 2nd, 2014 Ducks and raptors galore

This post is about the trip that I made to Muskegon on November 2nd, 2014, the same weekend as my last post from Pickerel Lake. It was the last nice weekend this year as far as weather, it’s been getting progressively wetter and colder since then. There’s a snowstorm happening outside as I’m beginning this post, and this one is just a warm up for the worse one predicted to hit tomorrow. 😦

I went walking today, in the snow, and did some thinking. I took my vacation this spring towards the end of May. After the long, cold, snowy winter last winter, there were still snow drifts on the ground in places up north. When I went north the first weekend in October of this year, there were snowflakes and sleet falling, although it melted as fast as it fell. However, snow has been falling steadily here for several days, and covering the ground. That means that there only five months this year when I didn’t see some snow on the ground, and only four months between snowfalls. Yuck!

However, this post is about a day when we still had nice weather. So, with good weather and a wide range of species of birds to photograph, you all know what that means, a long post with too many photos. 😉

I’m going to start the photos in this post with one that I did wrong.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

What I did wrong was to go for a good shot of the heron first, then as an afterthought, shot this one that almost included the heron and a flock of northern shovelers that had been much closer to the heron.

Northern shovelers and great blue heron

Northern shovelers and great blue heron

Also in the same area, a female hooded merganser.

Female hooded merganser

Female hooded merganser

Next up, I spotted a pair of gadwalls swimming up one of the drainage ditches, and I was able to get ahead of them, hide in the weeds above them, and wait for them to get close.

Male gadwall duck

Male gadwall duck

You can tell that the male had spotted me, and the next photo was of him headed back behind the weeds. The female continue on for a few good photos of her, I’ll include one of them.

Female gadwall duck

Female gadwall duck

The male bolted, I got one bad photo of him in flight.

Male gadwall duck in flight

Male gadwall duck in flight

I only included that one because it does show his wing colors, even if he’s out of focus, and I haven’t posted many images of gadwalls.

Next up, a flock of northern shovelers with one female blue-winged teal for a size comparison.

Northern shovelers and one female blue-winged teal

Northern shovelers and one female blue-winged teal

It’s easy to tell the teal from the shovelers, she’s half their size, and of course she has a more petite bill. Here’s a closer shot of her.

Female blue-winged teal

Female blue-winged teal

And yes, that’s ice on the water, and that was a relatively warm day this November, as you’ll see later when I get to the shots where you can see the heat waves above the ground.

Anyway, here’s a scaup, I can’t tell if it is a lesser or greater, in front of a ring-necked duck. As you can see, they are close to the same size, and also in coloration. But, if you look closely, you’ll see that the scaup has lighter sides, and darker head than the ring-necked.

Scaup leading a ring-necked duck

Scaup leading a ring-necked duck

Sometimes it is easier to learn to ID birds when you see two species together like that. Here’s the ring-necked duck zoomed in and cropped more.

Ring-necked duck

Ring-necked duck

Bufflehead ducks are one of the smaller species of ducks, but they are chubby little things with short, wide wings, as you can see here.

Juvenile bufflehead duck

Juvenile bufflehead duck

Juvenile bufflehead duck

Juvenile bufflehead duck

By comparison, the northern shovelers look svelte in flight.

Northern shovelers in flight

Northern shovelers in flight

Switching over to raptors, here’s a red-tailed hawk.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

I had tried to get a photo of that hawk a few minutes before, but it flew off before I could get a good image of it. So, it surprised me when it landed even closer to me than it had been before. I told it I had been hoping for an eagle.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

So, it did its best eagle impersonation for me.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Switching gears again, this time to songbirds, here’s an American pipit with a blue-winged teal in the background.

American pipit

American pipit

But, I found the teal distracting, so the pipit hung around until the teal was gone.

American pipit

American pipit

Don’t you just love it when the birds cooperate? Speaking of which, I think that this is my best shot of a ruddy duck so far.

Female ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

I caught her just as she surfaced with a mouthful of food.

I have a still photo of northern shovelers feeding, but, I have also shot a much better video than the one that I had in my last post from Muskegon. In that one, the sound of the IS system in the 300 mm prime lens was all that you could hear. In this one, you can hear the shovelers, since I used the 70-200 mm lens, which has no stabilization system. The shovelers are filter feeders, their bills have about 110 fine projections (called lamellae) along the edges, for straining food from water, and you can hear them this time.

I was hoping that they would get into one of their feeding frenzies, but no such luck.

Not all the birds were so cooperative, I think that this male bufflehead was doing the duck equivalent of flipping me off.

Male bufflehead duck

Male bufflehead duck

Especially by the way he smirked at me over his shoulder as he and his buddy were swimming away from me.

Male bufflehead duck

Male bufflehead duck

Here’s an American coot for the record.

American coot

American coot

The Wilson’s snipe was still hanging around, in nearly the same spot as the last time.

Wilson's snipe

Wilson’s snipe

While I was watching the snipe, hoping it would move to a more photogenic area, I spotted a real prize, a male green-winged teal in breeding plumage.

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal

Yes! Another species I can cross off my list of species that I need photos of.

A short while later, I saw an approaching hawk, but I could tell that it wasn’t a red-tailed.

Rough-legged hawk in flight

Rough-legged hawk in flight

It was a rough-legged hawk, as you can probably tell from the caption. 😉

Rough-legged hawk in flight

Rough-legged hawk in flight

From where I saw that hawk, to the grassy cells, is well over a mile, but when I got to the grassy cells, I found what had to be another rough-legged hawk. It would hover for a while, drop down, touch the ground, then immediately take off again.

Rough-legged hawk

Rough-legged hawk

Rough-legged hawk in flight

Rough-legged hawk in flight

You can see the heat waves rising from the ground in these shots, as well as this one, which I shot at the same time, but in another direction.

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Three species of hawks in one day, even if the photos aren’t great, not a bad day.

So, with the atmospheric conditions getting worse, I tried to get closer to my subjects. Here’s a great blue heron modeling the latest in leggings for herons.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

While I was watching that heron, another landed on the slope above the first.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I think that the second one showed up to distract me as the first one caught something to eat.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

And, as the first heron finished swallowing its catch, the second one flew off, so I missed the action shots.

How many species am I up to in this post? I’ve lost count, but, time to add another, a greater yellowlegs.

Greater yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs

In my last post from Muskegon, I jumped ahead and posted a video of Canada geese flying past me, well, here’s the first wave of the geese as they took flight.

Canada geese in flight

Canada geese in flight

It was as the second wave flew past me that I got the idea to shoot the video in the other post.

Time to add another species to the list for today, a horned grebe.

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

I spotted to adult eagles in a tree ahead of me as I was driving past the lagoons, but when I got there, some one else had exited their vehicle and was trying to sneak up on the eagles. That doesn’t work, so I knew that the eagles wouldn’t be there long. I slid my Forester around, got into position as one eagle took flight, and managed to get one shot of the eagle still perched.

Bald eagle

Bald eagle

I hadn’t had time to get a good focus on the eagle, and I still hadn’t as it leapt into the air.

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

I did finally get a good focus lock on the eagle.

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

One more, just because it’s an eagle.

Bald eagle taking flight

Bald eagle taking flight

I was lucky there, when the other person spooked the eagle, it launched almost straight at me at first. Now I know what an eagle’s prey sees!

My best photo of a juvenile bufflehead ever.

Juvenile bufflehead duck

Juvenile bufflehead duck

A photo of one of the rough-legged hawks perched for a change.

Rough-legged hawk

Rough-legged hawk

And, a red-tailed hawk nearby to compare to the rough-legged hawk.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

I headed back to where I had seen the green-winged teal earlier, hoping that they were in a better spot for photos. I shot these mallards there, yet another species to add to the list for the day.

Mallards in the sun

Mallards in the sun

The teal were still there, but not for long, here’s a male on take off.

Male green-winged teal

Male green-winged teal on take off

Male green-winged teal in flight

Male green-winged teal in flight

The female teal which had jumped into the air first, caught and passed the male.

Green-winged teal in flight

Green-winged teal in flight

But, I wasn’t able to catch their distinctive green wing patches, darn, better luck next time.

Should I include another heron? What the heck, why not.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I found the gadwalls again.

Female gadwall duck

Female gadwall duck

Male gadwall duck

Male gadwall duck

That’s it from the wastewater facility. Since I wasn’t seeing anything new, I drove the length of Muskegon Lake to visit Pere Marquette Park for the next few photos, starting with an inquisitive ring-billed gull.

Ring-billed gull

Ring-billed gull

I was going to walk down the breakwater, but it was a bit chilly to get splashed on.

The south breakwall at Muskegon

The south breakwater at Muskegon

So, I watched some kite surfers for a while instead.

Kite surfers

Kite surfers

Other than the gulls, there were no birds to photograph, so I looked for other things.

Lichens

Lichens

Lichens

Lichens

The flag flying over the Muskegon Coast Guard Station…

American flag in the wind

American flag in the wind

…makes a fitting prelude to my next photo. Long time readers of my blog have seen this before, but with many new readers, it’s time to post photos of the USS Silversides again. The Silversides is a World War II era submarine docked in Muskegon at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial & Museum. She sank the second highest total tonnage of any sub during WW II, and is now a floating museum, after having been used as a training ship after the war.

Uss Silversides

USS Silversides

The conning tower of the USS Silversides

The conning tower of the USS Silversides

The old girl still looks pretty good for being almost 75 years old and having sustained heavy battle damage several times during the war!

Well, another day done, and a fine day it was. I could prattle on longer, but I won’t, this post is long enough already. So, I’ll just say that this is it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Pickerel Lake, November 1st

I’m starting this post on the morning after my first real day at my new job, with a trainer to teach me the paperwork that this company does. We ran mostly local, we did get as far as Lansing, Michigan, but that’s not that important. What is important is the feeling that I get about this company, on one hand, every one is very laid back, but with a very purposeful attitude. The company culture seems to be “We have a job to do and we’re going to do it”. What I like best so far is that there never seems to be any sense of panic when things don’t go as planned.

At many of the places that I’ve worked, especially the last company, the same problems pop up time and time again, and each time, management goes into panic mode, running around like chickens with their heads’ cut off, no matter how many times they’ve had to deal with the same problem. That accomplishes nothing, most of the time, it makes things worse.

At Holland Special Delivery, where I work now, so far when a problem comes up, every one stays calm, knows that the same problem has come up before, and knows how to deal with it.

But enough of that right now, I should really keep those thoughts in separate posts, and this one is about a day spent at the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve.

As it turns out, it was the last nice weekend as far as the weather, since then, it has gotten wet and cold here. Most of the brightly colored leaves had already fallen from the trees, but I decided to shoot a few landscape photos anyway, just for practice, and to better learn my equipment. If you remember one of my recent posts on a trip to the same place, I shot a few photos of the far side of the lake using my Sigma 150-500 mm lens set at 150 mm.

Pickerel Lake, long 4

Pickerel Lake, long 4

I love the color and sharpness of that one, but even at 150 mm, the Beast was too long of a lens for the best image that I could have gotten. So, on this day, I tried the Tokina 100 mm macro lens, first with the 1.4 X tele-converter, for an effective focal length of 140 mm….

Pickerel Lake long again

Pickerel Lake long again

…then, the same lens without the tele-converter, 100 mm.

Pickerel Lake 100 mm

Pickerel Lake 100 mm

Looking at and comparing those images, so many things come to mind. How quickly the trees shed their leaves for one thing. In the post that the first image was taken from, I estimated at that time that 125 mm would be the best focal length to get the best possible composition, balancing how much of the sky, the trees, and the lake I would get in the frame. To my surprise, I still think that 125 mm would be about the best focal length for that scene. I was also surprised at how much difference dropping just 10 mm of focal length, from 150 mm to 140 mm made. What doesn’t surprise me at all is how good of an image the Tokina 100 mm macro lens produces. Here’s an image from my last post that I also shot with the Tokina lens.

Fall Mallards

Fall Mallards

It may be outdated, with the old style screw drive auto-focus system, and lacking any type of stabilization, but optically, it is the best lens I own, beating even the Canon 300 mm prime L series lens, which is from Canon’s “Professional” line of lenses.

While I’m at it, I should also throw in a few words of praise for the Tamron 1.4 X tele-converter. As you can see in the two photos of the trees on the other side of the lake, there isn’t much drop-off in image quality when I use the tele-converter behind the Tokina lens, or the 300 mm prime lens for that matter.

Enough of that gibberish, at least for a while. My next shot was of a junco. They’ve been back for a few weeks, but I wasn’t able to get a photo of one until this day.

Dark-eyed junco

Dark-eyed junco

And, there was a mixed flock of waterfowl resting in the middle of the lake, out of range of even the Sigma lens, otherwise known as the Beast.

Mixed waterfowl

Mixed waterfowl

One of the attractions at Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve is a larch swap, although getting a good view of it is difficult. Here’s an image shot with the Beast zoomed in to 500 mm.

Autumn larch

Autumn larch

And, here’s a “close-up” of a larch tree, shot with the Canon 10-18 mm lens.

Autumn larch 2

Autumn larch 2

In between those two, I found a heron hunting along a creek that feeds the larch swamp.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Since I’m still learning to use my shorter lenses, and that includes the Tokina macro lens, and there weren’t many birds around, I did some playing with various subjects, starting with a bright red berry, shot with the Tokina.

Bright red

Bright red

Then, a patch of what I think are two species of lichens, which I shot with the 10-18 mm lens, trying to get everything in focus.

Unidentified lichens

Unidentified lichens

I was distracted from getting a better shot of those lichens, by these, which were shot with the Tokina.

Unidentified lichens 2

Unidentified lichens 2

Looking up, I saw this scene, which I shot with the Beast.

Berries and leaves

Berries and leaves

A few clouds in the sky to add some interest would have been nice for this next one, but I wanted to capture the day.

Pickerel Lake short

Pickerel Lake short

That was shot with the 10-18 mm lens, I looked for a more interesting foreground, but that was the best that I could find.

Along the trail, I spotted these tiny little mushrooms, but they were in a bad spot for a photo.

Tiny unidentified fungal objects

Tiny unidentified fungal objects

Since they were growing down in a “valley” in the log, I couldn’t get enough of what I wanted to get in focus in focus, due to the extremely short depth of field as close as I had to be to the mushrooms to get them to show up in any photo.

Tiny unidentified fungal objects

Tiny unidentified fungal objects

Maybe if I had taken my tripod along and used it, I could have stopped the aperture of the Tokina lens down enough for a better photo, but I’m doubtful of that, as uneven as the scene was.

A little later, I got into the middle of a flock of chickadees, and was following one, trying to get a photo of it. I caught it with the Beast at 150 mm just as the chickadee was landing on a branch over my head.

Black-capped chickadee landing

Black-capped chickadee landing

I quickly snapped another photo…

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

…then began to zoom in…

Black-capped chickadee

Black-capped chickadee

You know that you’re close to a chickadee when it fills the frame at 150 mm and you have so little depth of field at slightly longer than 150 mm that the chest of the chickadee is in focus, but its head is starting to get fuzzy because of a short depth of field at f/10 at that focal length. The chickadee took off after that, or there would have been a head shot of it. 😉

Along with the chickadees was one of the largest flocks of tufted titmouse that I have ever seen. Not only was the area filled with them, but they were foraging for food down on the ground, which is slightly unusual for them.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Usually, they stick to the treetops, but on this day, I had to try to find one above the leaf litter on the ground, something that wasn’t easy.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

If they weren’t half buried in the leaves, then, they wouldn’t sit still for me.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

But, I finally caught one in good light, and somewhat out in the open.

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse

I couldn’t tell what the titmouse had found to eat, I assume it was an insect that had formed a cocoon of some type for the winter.

Now then, a short break from my hike that day. I’ve done a second day with a trainer at my new job, and a day solo. The reason for riding with a trainer wasn’t for driving purposes, but to familiarize me with the paperwork, of which there is an incredible amount.

My first day solo, we got hammered by a snowstorm, and the results of the snowstorm have strengthened the feeling that I have about my new employer. I slugged my way through the lake enhanced snow, first going north up the Lake Michigan shore line towards Muskegon, then back south to South Bend, Indiana, and back. That really isn’t that important, other than what great weather to have on my first day solo, but because of that, they wanted me to call dispatch at each stop.

You can imagine that snow and trucking don’t go together well, every one runs late, there are more equipment problems, and many highways were closed completely at times. So, each time that I called in, I could hear other conversations in the background, as dispatchers other than the one I was speaking to dealt with problems. It was the same when I closed out for the night, I had to wait while the lead dispatcher dealt with two drivers stuck in traffic because I 94 was shutdown. Another driver had a flat tire on the road, two drivers had to get motels because they had run out of hours and couldn’t legally drive any longer, and so on. No one blew a cork, no one threw a temper tantrum, you could tell that it had been a long day for the dispatchers, but it was so different from any other company that I have driven for before. It was, there’s a problem, we’ll handle it, then move on to the next one attitude from every one.

Good news for today, I’m headed east to Detroit and back today, so I’ll be out of the snow most of the time on my run.

Back to my hike, I shot several photos of a mixed flock of waterfowl, this first one has American wigeons, ring-necked ducks, and possibly other species.

American wigeons and ring-necked ducks

American wigeons and ring-necked ducks

The wigeons have the light heads, the ring-necked ducks have darker heads. I wish that I had been able to get closer, but that’s the best that I could do, the same with this one.

Redhead and ring-necked ducks

Redhead and ring-necked ducks

I’m finding that Pickerel Lake is a good place to see ducks, but not so good for photographing them, as they stay too far from shore for me to get close to them.

I didn’t have that problem with these freeze-dried mushrooms.

Freeze dried mushrooms

Freeze dried mushrooms

Yes, it was below freezing that day, although the bright sunshine and light wind made it feel warmer than it really was. It was the first really cold day of the fall season, and I’m not sure, but I think that this is a slime mold that got caught in the cold.

Slime mold????

Slime mold????

I moved in closer for this next image.

Slime mold???

Slime mold???

And, nearby, was this puff-ball.

Puff ball and lichens on a fallen tree

Puff ball and lichens on a fallen tree

These next two photos didn’t come out quite as well as I had hoped, but they’re still very cool.

Moss? on a log

Moss? on a log

Moss? on a log

Moss? on a log

Maybe someday I’ll learn what all the things that I photograph are, but that may be a while, if it happens at all. :0

But, speaking of moss, here’s a few photos of other mosses.

Unidentified moss

Unidentified moss

Unidentified moss

Unidentified moss

Unidentified moss

Unidentified moss

The spore carrying bodies of a moss

The spore carrying bodies of a moss

The spore carrying bodies of a moss

The spore carrying bodies of a moss

The spore carrying bodies of a moss

The spore carrying bodies of a moss

Those were all shot with the Tokina macro lens, of course, and only the last image was cropped at all, and then, just a little. One nice thing about the leaves being off from the trees, there was sunshine on the mosses, so I had some good light to work with. The mosses also grew where I could get into a steady position so I could stop the lens down for more depth of field.

Not all the leaves had fallen yet.

Love the color

Love the color

It isn’t a good photo, but I worked hard to get this next one.

Red-bellied woodpecker

Red-bellied woodpecker

The problem with the Pickerel Lake Nature Preserve is that it is too popular, there are so many people there that getting close to wildlife can be difficult. About the time that I find a critter, herds of people come past, frightening off most of the wildlife away. Not so with this chipmunk sunning itself.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

I worked my way around it for these, so that there wouldn’t be any shadows.

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

Eastern chipmunk

But, the chipmunk didn’t cooperate as well as I had hoped, as you can see. It moved enough so that it was partially hidden. Oh well, at least I could see that it kept its ears clean. 😉

One last image from the day, mother nature is decorating for the Christmas season early this year.

Christmas colors

Christmas colors

That’s all the photos from this hike.

I haven’t been for a walk at all this week, I knew that was going to happen. I’ve been averaging 11 hours a day at work, and as short as the daylight hours are, I haven’t been able to get a walk in. That may change, I hope that it does, but for right now, I need the money.

I’ve finished my first week on the new job, the hours are long, but so far, things are going better than I had hoped. I won’t bore you with any more of the details, but I’ll say that I think that I made a wise choice in picking Holland Special Delivery as my new employer. One thing that they stressed when I talked to recruiting was that they worked with their drivers, but all trucking companies say that, most of them lie. Not so with HSD, they really do work with their drivers. It’s so nice to go into work when the attitude of every one is pleasant and helpful, it’s no wonder that they have so many people still with the company after 15 or twenty years. I can see myself retiring from them, especially since I’ll be making around 50% more than I did at my last employer. 😉

I didn’t get a chance to walk at all this week, but it’s Saturday morning, and I’m headed out the door shortly. I also have tomorrow off from work, but I think that I’ll probably stay home, as there is another snowstorm in the forecast for tomorrow.

I have quite a few photos left, from two trips to Muskegon, and a few from around home left to post. When I get the time, I’ll start posting to the My Photo Life List project as well.

I have the feeling that we’re in for a long, cold, snowy winter here in West Michigan, some parts of the upper peninsula have already seen over three feet of snow fall. Closer to home, there are places just to the west of me that have gotten a foot of snow this week, although outside my door, it has been just a few inches.

However, it isn’t either the snow or work that will affect my photography the most, it’s the constant overcast skies from the lake effect clouds that has that honor. Any sunshine is rare this time of year, so it’s just as well that I work as much as I can over the winter months, so I can afford a new Canon 7D mark II next spring!

Well, that’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


The end of October around home

I’m starting this post on the morning before I begin my new job, which today will be going in for orientation. Tomorrow, they will have some one from the company ride with me to be sure that I understand their procedures, then on Wednesday, I’m on my own.

I must be getting old, I used to change jobs all the time and it never bothered me. This time, I’m nervous, and I don’t even know why. Maybe it’s because I’m hoping that this will be my last job before I retire in a few years.

Well, I’m home from orientation at my new employer, and it went well. I do get the feeling that this will be the last job that I start. I may not get rich there, or even earn as much as I could make at some other trucking companies, but it will be a huge leap up from what I was making. However, there’s more to life, or even a job, than money. I’ll be working a lot of hours over the winter, just to get ahead and to save for a new Canon 7D Mark II, but come next spring, I’ll slack off a little.

Judging from what the management said during my first day, they know how to run a short-haul regional trucking operation. It seems that they have figured out that it costs them a ton of money to hire a new driver, so being flexible and reasonable in the way that they schedule and treat their drivers pays off in the long run.

It will be good to work for a growing company that has a great reputation, rather than a dying one with a horrible reputation as my last employer was.

Anyway, I’m going to start the photos in this post with two of the better fall foliage shots that I got from around home, that I didn’t accidentally delete as I did the other half-dozen images that I had saved.

Fall foliage 1

Fall foliage 1

Fall foliage 2

Fall foliage 2

Keith, the grasshopper hunting heron hung around here until the end of October, and will appear several times in this post.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I haven’t seen him for quite some time now, I think that he’s flown south for the winter. That was a very wise decision on his part, as we’re going to have a long, cold winter this year.

The bird migration this fall was sporadic, and I saw very few migrating birds around home.

Male Eastern towhee

Male Eastern towhee

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Juvenile male red-winged blackbird

Juvenile male red-winged blackbird

Seeing the red-winged blackbird surprised me, as all the locals here left two months ago, and there were only one or two other blackbirds with it. They normally migrate in large flocks.

Here’s a shot that I liked, even though this image isn’t quite what I wanted. I thought that the scene had potential.

The fence 1

The fence 1

So, I tried again.

The fence 2

The fence 2

And a third time.

The fence 3

The fence 3

After that, I gave up and had to admit that what I tried to make that scene look like just wasn’t going to work.

Now, the leaves have almost all fallen from the trees, and about the only colors left are grey and brown. So, I guess that you’ll be seeing a lot of these from me this winter.

Male northern cardinal

Male northern cardinal

Black-capped chickadee take-off

Black-capped chickadee take-off

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Male house finch

Sorry so many of the finch, but I love getting series of photos of birds feeding to see how they go about it. That may sound a bit strange, but I often wonder how they get on so well without hands to hold what they eat, along with the foods that they consume.

Squirrels are both cute and interesting, along with loads of personality.

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

In case you hadn’t noticed, there weren’t many sunny days the last month or so, it’s that time of year here. The lake effect clouds formed by cold air crossing the warmer waters of the Great Lakes has kept us socked in under those clouds most days, and it will only get worse this winter. So, when there was some sun, I tried to take advantage of it.

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Two that I like, even though the subjects aren’t spectacular.

Unidentified fungal objects

Unidentified fungal objects

Maple leaves

Maple leaves

Gee, more images of Keith the great blue heron, first, a wide shot…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…then, zoomed in.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I found a pair of downy woodpeckers within range of good photos.

Male downy woodpecker

Male downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

Female downy woodpecker

And a female mallard in a pretty setting.

Fall mallard

Fall mallard

On one of the sunny days, I did some lens testing, using British soldier lichens as the test subject. I started at 15 mm…

British soldier lichen

British soldier lichen

….then switched to the Tokina macro lens for a close-up….

British soldier lichen

British soldier lichen

….then, a depth of field shot with the same lens.

British soldier lichen

British soldier lichen

I tried shooting this wasp’s nest at several different focal lengths, here’s the one I like best.

Wasp nest

Wasp nest

One day, there were several young people in the park, and they asked me what I was taking pictures of. So, I pointed out to them that there was Keith the great blue heron….

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…Bertha, the female red-tailed hawk…

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

…and I tried pointing out Bruiser, Bertha’s mate, but being as stubborn as he is, he took off…

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

…but he did pull up for one better photo.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

While I was pointing out the hawks, Keith came running up with something in his mouth…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…it was a small snake! The snake fought back valiantly!

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

But it lost, and must have wiggled a bit on the way down.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

It didn’t take Keith long to regain his composure though.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

It’s true, great blue herons will eat anything that doesn’t eat them first.

And my last photo for this post, one that I am quite proud of.

Fall Mallards in HDR

Fall Mallards in HDR

If only I could have gotten the mallards to cooperate a bit more to help me out with the composition. However, I walked all around the pond, checking the reflections at different places, and wound up with a very good image, but the colors were a bit dull due to the light. So, I did a cloned HDR version, where I adjusted the exposure of one image both up and down from my original image, then did the HDR merge from those three images.

That was shot with the Tokina 100 mm macro lens, I really need to use that lens for more than macro photos more of the time. Here’s the original non-HDR version.

Fall Mallards

Fall Mallards

Not bad, but I was already losing the deep blue of the reflected sky at that exposure setting, and if I had gone up any more with the exposure, the sky would have been washed out.

Well, that’s about all for this one. I’m getting ready for my second day at my new job as I type this, which consists of drinking copious amounts of coffee, and I’m only on my first cup.

I know that for at least this first winter there, I won’t be able to do my daily walks most days, since the daylight hours are so short. Once spring arrives, with longer days, I should have a set schedule, and be able to work a walk in at some point in the day, we’ll see. However, I will have weekends off for the most part, so I’ll be able to get out and about then. In the meantime, I still have several posts worth of photos left to post, and I’ll revive posting to the My Photo Life List this winter.

I have enough photos saved for that to put me over 200 species of birds, not bad for less than two years of trying since I began that project. But, the first 200 were the easy ones, the remaining 150 species will be harder.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Muskegon Oct. 26th, 2014 Filling the frame with falcon

This post is about the trip that I made to Muskegon on October 26th, 2014, and yes, I’m still that far behind in my postings.

This was a particularly productive trip, for while I didn’t get any lifers, I did get photos of two species of birds that I had seen before, but didn’t have images good enough to use in a post in the My Life List project that I’m working on. In addition, I was able to get better images of several species that I have already posted to that project. In fact, I would say that I was able to shoot a number of personal best images of several species on this trip! You know what that means, way too many photos. 😉

The one that I’m going to begin with isn’t one of my best, but I really like it, and it was the first shot of the day.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

And, since I don’t bother shooting the thousands of geese that I see during my trips to Muskegon, here’s another of the heron, flying past a few of the geese.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

With good light, I had one of my better days, oh, I said that already, but here’s one of my personal bests.

Female northern shoveler

Female northern shoveler

I had saved a second photo of her, since she was so good at balancing that drop of water on top of her head, (Upon seeing the preview of this post, I can see that the drop of water that the shoveler has on her head doesn’t really show up well, I’ll have to try to get even closer the next time) but to keep this post as short as possible, I’ll skip that one, and go with this one instead.

Male northern shoveler

Male northern shoveler

I probably have better images of a male northern shoveler, shot when it was in full breeding plumage, but that one will have to do for this day. Speaking of breeding plumage, here’s a male ruddy duck looking quite dapper.

Male ruddy duck

Male ruddy duck

If only he had stuck his tail up like they often do, that would be super cute, rather than just really cute.

I was able to get a so-so photo of a Bonaparte’s gull….

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte’s gull

…a little later, I shot a better one.

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte’s gull

Unfortunately, the Wilson’s snipe was hanging out in about the worst possible spot for a photo, because of the catch fence.

Wilson's snipe

Wilson’s snipe

But, you can see, that didn’t stop me from shooting the photo, or posting it. 😉 I did so because I’m still amazed with both the variety and numbers of birds that I see on my trips to Muskegon. And, speaking of numbers, here’s a few mallards…

Many mallards in flight

Many mallards in flight

…and here’s the mallards flying past a few of the northern shovelers…

Many mallards flying over northern shovelers

Many mallards flying over northern shovelers

…and, here’s a few of the northern shovelers in a feeding frenzy.

Northern shoveler feeding frenzy

Northern shoveler feeding frenzy

I had an image that included about a dozen American coots hanging around the shovelers, but the coots didn’t show up well in the image, so I won’t post that one.

Now, I’m going to do something silly. During my next trip to Muskegon, I shot a few videos, the first that I’ve used the Canon 60 D to shoot. So, this one is really rough, I’ve already learned not to use the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) to shoot videos. 😉 But, it will give you an idea how many geese are in a small flock in Muskegon during the fall, more from the sound that the geese than can be seen in the frame.

 

And, I keep shooting images of the northern shoveler feeding frenzies, but still photos just don’t convey what’s happening. This is a small feeding frenzy, I hope to do better in the future, but that’s uncertain, due to winter setting in.

I used the 300 mm prime lens for the shovelers, but even that lens was too long. I had to move the camera around to catch the ducks as they joined the frenzy. That’s one of the cool things about the shovelers, a few will begin circling, then more and more of them will join in, until they number in the hundreds some of the time. All going round and round as they stir up things to eat.

If there’s a day when the light is good enough, I’ll try to do a better job with both the geese and the shovelers.

Okay, back to the stills, is this the spokesbird for Angry Birds?

Juvenile herring gull

Juvenile herring gull

A pair of female bufflehead swan by.

Female bufflehead

Female bufflehead

Now, the first of a species that I needed photos for the My Photo Life List project. Actually, I have photos of ring-necked ducks, but they were shot with my old Nikon, and very poor quality, this is my first good photo of one.

Male ring-necked duck

Male ring-necked duck

I have a few good photos of ruddy ducks, but these are so good that I just have to post them.

Female ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

Female ruddy duck

To show you a comparison in sizes of ducks, here’s a green-winged teal with two ruddy ducks.

Female Green-winged teal and ruddy ducks

Female Green-winged teal and ruddy ducks

As you can see, the teal is only slightly larger than the ruddy ducks, which are the smallest ducks in North America.

Next up, another species I needed photos of, tundra swans.

Tundra swans

Tundra swans

Tundra swans are virtually identical to trumpeter swans, the surest way to tell them apart, other than sound, is that some tundra swans have a small patch of yellow near their eye. Of course, sounds don’t do me any good in photos, so I began zooming in on swans…

Tundra swan

Tundra swan

…until I spotted one with the yellow patch…

Tundra swans

Tundra swans

…then, zoomed in on that one.

Tundra swan

Tundra swan

I was very fortunate to find a few of the Tundra swans close to shore, since most of them stay out towards the middle of the lagoon.

Tundra swans

Tundra swans

So, when I shot this one that I didn’t have to crop at all, I was doing my happy dance.

Tundra swan

Tundra swan

I have a few photos of the Tundra swans out in the center of the lagoon, just like the flock shot above, but since one can’t ID them with 100% certainty, those photos don’t count.

I’m going to skip my first photo of a peregrine falcon, since it isn’t very good.

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

I shot much better one later in the day.

In the meantime, here’s a female blue-winged teal.

Female blue-winged teal

Female blue-winged teal

A drive over to the Swanson/Laketon fields netted me a great blue heron…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

…snow buntings….

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

…a horned lark…

Horned lark

Horned lark

… and a male mallard in flight, although I forgot to switch the OS to the proper mode, so these aren’t very good.

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

Male mallard in flight

Next up, two photos of a greater yellowlegs.

Greater yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs

Greater yellowlegs

Which brings up something that I should mention, the more that I see shorebirds, and other categories of hard to ID birds, the better I get at making the ID. When I first began photographing shorebirds, I struggled for hours with an online field guide and my photos, trying to figure out what species of birds I had photographed. I could tell that the bird above was a greater yellowlegs even before I zoomed in on it.

It isn’t just the appearance of the birds, it’s also the way that they behave, their calls, and where they are found. It’s the same with all species of birds, the more often I see them, the easier it becomes to ID them quickly, even if I don’t have a good look at them.

Here’s a female mallard, two female northern shovelers, and a female green-winged teal.

Mixed waterfowl

Mixed waterfowl

Slight differences in size and coloration allowed me to ID these four ducks relatively quickly, and here’s the teal by herself.

Female green-winged teal

Female green-winged teal

Here’s a male gadwall, I can tell by the length of the feathers on its back, and because I got a look at its face before it turned away from me. The only other rather drab ducks with that kind of plumage on their backs are wigeons, but they have white foreheads, and this duck didn’t.

Male gadwall duck

Male gadwall duck

The first time that I saw an American pipit, I thought that I was seeing an odd robin, but it was too small, and the colors were quite a bit different from even the oddest robin I had ever seen. Now, I know a pipit when I see one….

American pipit

American pipit

…or two.

American pipit

American pipit

By the way, as if it makes a difference, the second photo wasn’t cropped at all, I just wish the light had been better.

But, my point on seeing birds often to make identifying them easier is one reason that I’ll continue to go back to Muskegon, even if I don’t get many lifers this winter. Another reason is to get better images of the birds that I have already gotten photos of…

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

…instead of photos like these two…

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

…which aren’t great, but the harrier was really out of the Beast’s range.

So, I stood on the man-made hill overlooking the grassy cells, looking for the harrier if it made a return appearance, when this heron flew right past me, so I had to shoot it, even if the photo isn’t one of my best.

Great blue heron in flight

Great blue heron in flight

But, that leads me to the third reason to keep going back to Muskegon, action shots that I probably wouldn’t get anywhere else. The harrier did return, I was watching it to see what pattern it was hunting in so I could get ahead of it and get good photos, when a falcon began attacking the harrier…

Peregrine falcon attacking a northern harrier

Peregrine falcon attacking a northern harrier

Peregrine falcon attacking a northern harrier

Peregrine falcon attacking a northern harrier

Unfortunately, I was 150 yards or so away from the action, so I had to crop these a lot more than I wanted, but you get the idea.

The falcon broke off its first attack to circle and gain altitude…

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcon in flight

…then dove on the harrier again…

Peregrine falcon attacking a northern harrier

Peregrine falcon attacking a northern harrier

Peregrine falcon attacking a northern harrier

Peregrine falcon attacking a northern harrier

I don’t think that the falcon was trying to kill the harrier, although it may have been able to from what I’ve read about peregrine falcons. I think that the falcon wanted the grassy cells all to itself as a hunting ground.

The harrier wasn’t as fast as the falcon, but they are very agile flyers, so it was able to escape the attacks, it eventually gained altitude, and flew off to the open farm fields to the north of the grassy cells.

Wow, that was cool, even if my photos aren’t very good, so I decided to hang around a bit longer. It wasn’t long before I saw the falcon in hot pursuit of another bird, I think that the intended prey was a male mallard, but they were too far away for me to be sure. I know that whatever the falcon was chasing was one fast bird, which is one reason I suspect the intended victim of the falcon was a mallard.

In straight, level flight, waterfowl in general, and mallards in particular, are some of the fastest fliers in the bird world. I’ve had geese pass me on the road while I’ve been driving at 45 to 50 MPH, and mallards are as fast or faster than geese.

Anyway, whatever the falcon was chasing could pull away from the falcon, and it headed towards a wooded area, so I followed in my vehicle to see if I could determine the outcome of the chase. I couldn’t, so I returned to the man-made hill to see what else may happen. Some how, the falcon was there waiting for me, which is when I had shot the close-up of the falcon earlier in this post.

Other people had been seeing and photographing falcons there, and some one got a photo of one of the falcons (I’m not sure, but I think there were a couple of them) from close enough that they could read the numbers on the bands on the falcon’s legs.

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

In that photo, you can’t read the numbers on the bands, but you can see them. Since I’m not positive how many falcons have been hanging around Muskegon, I’m not positive that the one I shot is the same one the other person photographed. However, the people at the Muskegon County Nature Club sent the numbers from the bands to whom ever it is that records such information, and it came back that the falcon was a female that hatched this summer in northern Indiana, about 175 miles from Muskegon.

I have no idea why a young female falcon would fly from northern Indiana to Muskegon, Michigan in the fall, but one did. Like I say, I’m not positive that this is the one, but I do know that when the falcon stared at me…

Peregrine falcon

Peregrine falcon

…I felt something that no other critter has made me feel. I’ve been eyeball to eyeball with eagles, hawks, owls, and even other falcons through my camera lens many times, and I take that as a cue to shoot away to catch the moment. However, that falcon’s stare was so powerful that I had to tell myself to shoot the photos that I did, and I don’t even know how to describe what I felt at that moment.

By the way, I was shooting the close-ups of the falcon through the sunroof of my Subaru. The salesman that I bought the Forester from thought that it was amusing that I insisted that any vehicle I bought had a sunroof just for such times. 😉

Back to the falcon, I could tell it was curious about what I was and what I was doing, but there was also something very menacing about the way it stared at me, as if it was considering attacking me. I was glad that I was inside my vehicle at the time.

Well, that’s about it for this one. A few great photos, a couple almost winner action shots, all in all, another great day! I have to keep going back to Muskegon, one of these days, one of my almost winner opportunities is going to be the winning opportunity. In my last post, I had the two juvenile eagles fighting, in this post, the falcon harassing the harrier, and in my next post from Muskegon, I’ll have photos of a bald eagle diving straight at me. But, that was another almost winner moment, as neither the light or the background was ideal for great photos.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Going short and going crazy Part II

It seems like forever since I did the first post on this subject, learning how to more effectively use my shorter lenses and/or get better landscape photos. To refresh people’s memory, my eyesight runs towards excellent vision at distances, but with less angle of view than the average person’s vision. That, and having never owned very wide-angle lenses in the past, are my excuses for not getting good images while using my shorter lenses. 😉

Anyway, this post will have a few more fall color photos shot from around home here as I tried to get better using those short lenses, along with birds, flowers, etc.

But, before the I get to the photos, a short review of what I’ve been learning. One of those things has been how much going from a wide-angle focal length to even a short telephoto focal length changes the apparent distances between objects in an image. Towards the end of this exercise of using my shorter lenses, I did something that I should have done long ago, and probably should do every now and then as a reminder.

Remember, I’m used to shooting at 420 mm (300 mm prime plus 1.4 X tele-converter) or 500 mm with the Beast (Sigma 150-500 mm lens) when shooting birds and wildlife.

So, I put the 15-85 mm lens on my camera one day, set at 15 mm, and picked out a brush pile in the woods that looked to be way off in the distance when looking through the viewfinder. I snapped a photo, which I won’t bore you with, then, zoomed to just 35 mm. Wow, that brush pile sure got closer in a hurry! I shot that photo, then went to 50 mm, and the brush pile dominated the scene. At 85 mm, I couldn’t get the entire brush pile in the viewfinder.

Then, I went the other way around, I picked out an object at 85 mm that looked to be off in the distance, then zoomed out step by step, stopping at more focal lengths on the way down. I saved the images that I shot, and look at the often to remind myself just how much a small change in focal length can make big differences in what a scene looks like in an image, lesson learned, I hope. 😉 It isn’t just how close or far an object in a scene is to the camera, it’s also all the distances in the scene. As an example, trees that look to be two feet apart at 85 mm look to be 10 feet apart or more at 15 mm.

I know that a few of the people reading this will think that I’m a complete dope, especially since I have said in the past that I absolutely love the 15-85 mm lens because of the zoom range of that lens makes it the lens that’s the most fun for me to play with. But, I have also said that I need to play with it more, and that still applies.

That said, only a few of the fall color photos in this post were shot with the 15-85 mm lens, I shot far more with each the 10-18 mm lens, to open up small scenes, or the 70-200 mm lens, to get just the foliage that looked the best in an image.

I’m going to start with a HDR image that’s an epic fail, as I tried to get too much in an image.

Epic fall fail

Epic fall fail

I like the yellow off to the left, but the main part of the scene that I liked were these parts, shot a day or two later.

Less of a failure

Less of a failure

Here’s a scene that I shot fairly well at first.

Not bad

Not bad

But, then I messed up by taking a few steps back and zooming out to get a small, brightly colored tree in the foreground.

Another epic fall fail

Another epic fall fail

Just because a tree has good colors doesn’t mean that it should be included in a photo. In fact, I’m learning that smaller trees do not photograph well no matter how beautifully they are colored.

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 1

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 1

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 2

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 2

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 3

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 3

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 4

Small tree, bright colors, dud photo 4

I do kind of like the first one of those, but the rest were rather disappointing, other than the colors.

Parts of a larger tree seem to make better subjects.

Fall abstract 1

Fall abstract 1

Fall abstract 2

Fall abstract 2

Fall abstract 3

Fall abstract 3

But then, I’m a sucker for backlighting, or any lighting on leaves like these.

Autumn still life

Autumn still life

I’m a bit frustrated right now, for one thing, I’m tired of posting crappy photos, and for another, some of the true landscape photographers whose blogs I follow have been posting images that are true works of art.

It’s no surprise that the scenery in a suburban county park in southern Michigan doesn’t measure up to the Canadian Rockies, but I feel like a fool posting even my best images from around here.

The best of the lot 1

The best of the lot 1

The best of the lot 2

The best of the lot 2

The best of the lot 3

The best of the lot 3

If you’d like to see some truly spectacular photography of one of the most beautiful areas on the face of the Earth, than I would suggest that you check out Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog!

As for me, I’m better sticking to things that I’m half-way good at…

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Mourning dove

Mourning dove

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

…which includes sneaking up on unsuspecting critters….

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel

…and catching their reactions…

Fox squirrel

Fox squirrel saying “My nut!”

…and finding beauty on a smaller scale.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

White daisy or aster?

White daisy or aster?

So I have deleted all the “what not to do” photos that I had saved for this post, and I’ll post these instead.

British soldier lichen at 18 mm

British soldier lichen at 18 mm

Female northern cardinal

Female northern cardinal

Juvenile herring gull in flight

Juvenile herring gull in flight

Turkey

Turkey

Creekside Park 1

Creekside Park 1

Creekside Park 2

Creekside Park 2

Great blue heron in flight carrying a vole

Great blue heron in flight carrying a vole

Great blue heron in flight carrying a vole

Great blue heron in flight carrying a vole

Creekside Park 3

Creekside Park 3

I wouldn’t normally post this next one, as I have far better photos of hawks in flight, but I wanted to record this, as it is the second of two hawks.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

The first had landed in a tree that was really out of range of what I would normally shoot.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

But when the one in the tree began calling, and the second hawk flew over to respond to the calls of the first one, I had to shoot them both. Then, I shot this scene…

Creekside Park 4

Creekside Park 4

…and the hawk flew over to see what I was up to.

Red-tailed hawk in flight

Red-tailed hawk in flight

I’ll still be playing with all my lenses to try different things, here’s a mushroom at 200 mm…

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

…and the same one at 35 mm, and a lower angle.

Unidentified fungal object

Unidentified fungal object

All the images of the heron have been of Keith, the grasshopper hunting heron, but as you saw above, he’s not fussy about what he eats. He’s also the only heron I have ever come across that regularly lets me get this close to him.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

Maybe I should combine fall foliage images with wildlife images?

Fall fox squirrel

Fall fox squirrel

Fall fox squirrel

Fall fox squirrel

Those were a double test of a sort, seeing if I could resist zooming in on a squirrel, and seeing how the same scene looked here in my blog in both landscape and portrait orientation.

I’ve still much to learn about using my short lenses effectively, but that doesn’t mean that I have to prattle on about it, or post the poor images here. And speaking of short lenses, while the Tokina 100 mm macro lens is a short telephoto, I think that I should begin using it on birds now and then.

Ring-billed gull

Ring-billed gull

So, that about wraps up this post, I’ll have several better posts from Muskegon and Pickerel Lake coming up soon. But, I’ve been busy, I had to do a driving test, drug test, and take a physical for my new job that I start next Monday. I’ve also been visiting the dentist, using up the benefits from the dental insurance I have for now.

Just in case you missed the link I put in this post earlier, here it is again.

I would suggest that you check out Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog! You’ll be glad you did!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!


Muskegon Oct. 12th, 2014 The eagles have landed

This post is about the trip that I made to Muskegon on October 12th, 2014., yes, I’m that far behind in my postings.

I also know that I said that I wasn’t going to be going to Muskegon as often, but I just never know what I’m going to find there, so I can’t stop myself from going back regularly. I suppose the same could be said about where I live, as I shot this rare orange ring-billed gull as I was loading my camera gear into my Subaru.

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gull in flight

Ring-billed gulls are common, but I only see the orange ones at sunrise and sunset, I wonder where they spend the daylight hours. 😉

When I arrived at the wastewater treatment facility, I spotted this heron scoping out the grassy cells, looking for a good area to hunt.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

However, I didn’t linger at the grassy cells. I had arrived early, so I drove to the southeast corner of the east lagoon to get the best possible light on anything that I may have wanted to photograph. That way, I’d have the sun at my back as I checked out the waterfowl in the lagoon.

There was an eagle there that may have had the same idea.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

So, I got out of my vehicle to walk along the lagoon in hopes of sneaking up on some waterfowl, when I heard and saw two eagles fighting. Of course they were to the east of me, so I was shooting towards the sun, the best laid plans seldom work out, and this was another almost winner moment.

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

Juvenile bald eagles fighting in flight

If only they had been to the west of me, sigh. For as large as they are, they are certainly agile flyers!

This sparrow had been watching the eagles as well.

Savannah sparrow

Savannah sparrow

With the eagles out of sight, I went back to sneaking up on waterfowl, here’s a female ruddy duck next to a female mallard so you can see how small ruddy ducks are.

Female ruddy and mallard ducks

Female ruddy and mallard ducks

And here’s a pair of bufflehead, which are only slightly larger than a ruddy duck.

Bufflehead ducks

Bufflehead ducks

They didn’t stick around long though.

Bufflehead ducks

Bufflehead ducks

Bufflehead duck

Bufflehead duck

I was able to get a fair shot of a northern harrier working the creek that runs next to the lagoon.

Northern harrier in flight

Northern harrier in flight

And these guys were everywhere, as you will see. 😉

American pipit

American pipit

I shot quite a few other waterfowl in the area, but I shot even better ones on my next trip, so I won’t bore you with the fair ones, instead, I’ll bore you with an only fair eagle image.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

It didn’t stick around long either.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Some how, there’s a shadow on its face, I asked it if it could please pose a little better…

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

…thank you! It then flew off in search of the other eagle.

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

Juvenile bald eagle in flight

My best photo of the day, and it’s of a female mallard, go figure.

Female mallard

Female mallard

And it is even of her butt, why does that always seem to happen? 😉

I found a few Bonaparte’s gulls.

Bonaparte's gulls

Bonaparte’s gulls

Bonaparte's gull

Bonaparte’s gull

And, I couldn’t resist this pipit that had just waved to me, although I was slow on the shutter.

American pipit

American pipit

The wood duck curse continues to haunt me, as a blade of grass was blown in front of the lens as I shot this.

Wood duck

Wood duck

I had no such problems with this heron though.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

And here’s a female mallard with two blue-winged teal for size comparison.

Blue-winged teal and mallard

Blue-winged teal and mallard

The kestrel was hunting the creek that runs between the lagoons and the grassy cells, I was able to get one of my better kestrel photos of it.

American kestrel

American kestrel

They’re so cute, but tiny little falcons, about the same size as a dove, and very hard to get close to, so I’m happy with that one.

Yet another heron, after a summer when I saw very few, there’s at least half a dozen hanging around the wastewater facility this fall.

Great blue heron

Great blue heron

I checked the grassy cells, the only shorebird to be found was this killdeer.

Killdeer

Killdeer

So, a couple of the pipits agreed to fill in for the missing shorebirds. 😉

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit

By now, the sun was getting higher in the sky, so I drove along the west lagoon, and spotted one of the eagles duck hunting. I wonder if it had a license. 😉

It’s a hard to see in the small version here, but the eagle was flying low over the lagoon. You can see ruddy ducks with their tails up, and some splashes in the eagle’s path where the ducks were diving out of the eagle’s sight.

Bald eagle duck hunting

Bald eagle duck hunting

I was surprised that these two birds were as calm as they were with the eagle nearby.

American coot

American coot

Horned grebe

Horned grebe

I drove down to the Swanson/Laketon fields, but nothing that I saw or photographed is worth posting here. So, I returned to the area near the headquarters of the wastewater facility, and found both the eagles in one of the large pines there.

Juvenile bald eagles

Juvenile bald eagles

I’m almost positive that these were the same two eagles that had been fighting earlier, now, they were perched in the same tree, a little over a mile from where the fight had taken place.

I got a little closer, and shot these images that I have cropped.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Then, I got even closer for these photos which haven’t been cropped at all.

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

Juvenile bald eagle

I was about to leave, but I decided to shoot a few more pipits before I left.

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit

American pipit

I’m glad that I decided to stay a few more minutes, as the lighter of the two eagles flew off, followed by a large flock of crows which were harassing the eagle. No photos, the eagle stayed below the tree tops. However, the darker of the two eagles remained perched, and the crows were flying right past it on their way to harass the lighter eagle.

American crow flying past a juvenile bald eagle

American crow flying past a juvenile bald eagle

Crows have excellent eyesight, they had to have seen the second eagle, yet not one of them did anything about that eagle, they were all too busy chasing the other one. It was also funny to watch the eagle watching the crows fly by.

I then ran over to the Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve, but the only bird that I shot was this white-crowned sparrow.

White-crowned sparrow

White-crowned sparrow

So, I’ll throw in a monarch butterfly to fill space, as if I needed to fill space. 😉

Monarch butterfly fighting the wind

Monarch butterfly fighting the wind

I also shot a few landscapes.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

These next two were shot looking almost into the sun using the 10-18 mm lens.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

I don’t understand how that lens gets the exposure correct when shooting in the “wrong” direction, when no other lens that I have ever used would.

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

Muskegon Lake Nature Preserve

I suppose that I don’t have to understand why that lens performs as it does, I’ll just keep in mind that I can shoot in any direction with it.

So, that wraps up another trip to Muskegon. The next time, which I’ll get around to posting one of these days, I got good photos of at least two species of birds that I’ve seen before, but never gotten images good enough to make a positive ID of the species. The two that come to mind are tundra swans and ring-necked ducks, but there may have been a third species. I also got poor photos of a peregrine falcon harassing a much larger northern harrier. So, I guess that I’ll go back again this weekend to see what I can see.

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!